Mayor Haddix: ‘Which is the real Eric Imker?’

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“’You ran on the premise of no tax increases,’ Posey said of Imker, ‘… And I think this is the time to rein in the belt, not spend, spend, spend.’”

“Imker later noted that he devised more than $2 million in budget cuts last year that were defeated on separate council votes. And because the city faced a severe projected budget shortfall, the other choice was to raise taxes, Imker said.”

In 2010 Imker said if he had not proposed and voted for the tax increase the state would have taken over because we failed to act. He blamed the rest of [City] Council for not backing his cuts due to lack of courage, guts and backbone, an accusation he repeated at the July 11 budget workshop to which he added hanging his budget binder over his head and making additional accusations.

Imker never had $2 million because many of his items that were not legal, feasible or doable, such as parking meters at the library. We would have continued the 2010 budget and been forced to do adjustments, without any tax increase.

“’The good news, though, is that in addition to avoiding a property tax increase this year, the city is on track to have a sustainable budget within the next several years, Imker said.’” This is semantics and spreadsheet smoke and mirrors.

Reducing contingency fund line item numbers makes the books look better during an election year but does not reduce the amount ultimately spent by even one penny.

His plan includes draining the reserves to the minimum 20 percent. Folks, when your spending exceeds your income do you spend your available savings or reduce your spending?

He also proposes more tax increases, just none in 2012, hence his qualified good news of no tax increase “this” year. Very misleading.

The number of police cars to be replaced has not been reduced from 10 to 9. We already pushed the vehicles to maximum service life on the last council.

Again Imker wants to spend SPLOST money on a non-SPLOST project, which we cannot do.

Using Imker’s projections in 2017, we will still be spending more than we take in after draining the reserves and three more tax increases. Taking out the smoke and mirrors entries makes it even worse. That is not a sustainable budget and does not address the real issue of spending more than we take in.

I told Imker he was trying to govern from spreadsheets and I needed to know the physical impact on services, etc. He actually tried to defend deciding from spreadsheets. All he sees is numbers while I see numbers, services and impacts. In the business world, you better believe impacts matter and there is a crystal clear understanding of differences between needs and wants.

So, just keep increasing taxes? Drive more people out of the city and make it less attractive for others to move here? Why buy in Peachtree City when one can enjoy Peachtree City at less cost by buying in unincorporated Fayette or Coweta?

My silence on the references to my wife, Cathy, is over. She is a private citizen but keeps getting dragged into articles due to her private conversation with then Economic Development Coordinator Joey Grisham.

Cathy, HOA presidents and some other citizens were very upset that Grisham had presented them with staunch pro-Big Box and anti-Village Concept stances. A lot of positive response has been given to her and to me to convey to her for what she said. Some have asked her to run for council, which is legal and will irritate those who tried to make hay of the incident by being 180 degrees from the effect they desired.

In a conversation Grisham and I had, he indeed stated big boxes were needed, in spite of all the research out there on their negative impacts with cities capping sizes, outright banning them and companies reducing box sizes due to these realities. Just look at Kohl’s at Fischer Crossings where they cut their size by half before even beginning construction.

He also said the Village Concept was a thing of the past and not viable. He said we needed a centralized shopping district.

All said in spite of the fact we are a model city and the focus of most cities is downtown restoration and revitalization and movement toward the Village Concept.

So, while Grisham can feel, believe, think and say what he wants, that kind of thinking just will not work in Peachtree City. After the feedback from citizens I think he realized that.

That leads into Imker running against big boxes and for the removal of the special use permit to allow big boxes in 2009. In 2011 he voted against replacing the SUP with caps. At a Planning Commission Meeting, he said he thought he could deliver three votes to approve the Trinity big box plan at Line Creek as long as there was no traffic light. There was a traffic light.

Imker said the attraction of new business by hiring another EDC would help the city. Since an EDC works to attract mainly retail that is really an exercise in futility. Our problem is not a lack of retail but a lack of jobs to generate disposable income and residency within Peachtree City to fill and keep those retail stores profitable.

We need an economic development effort. But that requires an entity with the tools and powers to proactively recruit good paying companies to locate here. We need our Development Authority funded with their own Development Director because they do have the legal ability and powers an EDC does not.

Yes, indeed, Imker ran on pro-DAPC in 2009 and then voted to de-fund them in 2010.

Imker said the Fayette County Development Authority “works to pursue large scale business prospects for the city’s industrial park …” The FCDA is reactive, not proactive. It does not go out and “pursue” any potential companies. It works with companies brought to it. If Council member Imker wishes to challenge that reality I ask him to provide the name of any company the FCDA has proactively recruited.

The FCDA has never claimed to be proactive. In fact, Matt Forshee, the former FCDA president, made it clear when asked that they did not.

I oppose bleeding down the reserves, believe we must prioritize essential services and maintenance, fund our Development Authority and cannot balance the budget using ongoing tax increases.

We must be more fee-based for non-essential services, streamline the city operations and examine alternatives, such as public/private partnerships, that are proving successful in other cities. If all else fails then we will be forced to look at some service reductions in non-essential areas.

Big boxes, meaning category killers, are not beneficial. I do believe our Village Concept is the way of the future. Imker’s plans will hurt, not help, Peachtree City. Clearly, we disagree strongly on many things.

That leaves the big question, “Who is the real Eric Imker?”

• The 2009 Imker of no tax increases, cuts on spending, pro-DAPC, anti-big box and a one-term promise?

• The 2010 Imker of the 1.25 [mill] tax increase, increased spending and de-fund DAPC?

• Or, the 2011 Imker of a sustainable budget that is not sustainable, no tax increase but planned tax increases, pro-big box and giving every indication of running again?

Who is the real Eric Imker?

A lot to think about, ranging from what do you want Peachtree City to be, how do we get there, who will step up to run for Posts 1 and 2, with what vision, and who do you want sitting in Posts 1 and 2 after the election.

Hard times with hard decisions to make. But decisions that will determine our future.

Don Haddix, mayor

Peachtree City, Ga.

[Don Haddix was elected mayor of Peachtree City in 2009. Previously, he had served two years as a council member. His email is dhaddix@peachtree-city.org.]